a ferry traveling from New Jersey to Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan and carrying
326 passengers (as well as 5 crew members) crashed into the pier at a
high rate of speed causing numerous injuries. As of the time of this post, two passengers were listed as being in critical
condition. This particular boat, operated by Seastreak LLC, a private
ferry company, was involved in a terrible accident in 2003 that killed
11 people. The question presented now is what sort of criminal or civil
liability that company or its crew members might be facing as a result
of this accident.
As a preliminary matter, it is virtually certain that dozens, if not hundreds,
of passengers will be considering lawsuits against Seastreak for negligence.
Their attorneys will have to determine why the boat crashed (and may have
the assistance of the Coast Guard or law enforcement in determining this
question) and whether either the operation or maintenance of that boat
somehow fell below acceptable minimum standards. If so, then the passengers
injured by the crash can expect significant monetary awards.
Law enforcement may have to determine whether any criminal liability should
attach as well. First and foremost, if any of the passengers ultimately
die as a result of injuries sustained in the crash, then employees of
the company could theoretically be looking at charges of Criminally Negligent
Homicide, a Class E felony under Penal Law Section 125.10, or even worse,
Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Penal Law Section 125.15(1) a Class C felony.
A person is guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide when, with criminal
negligence, he causes the death of another person. “A person acts
with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstances
described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a
substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that
such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that
the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard
of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.”
See Penal Law Section 15.05.
A person is guilty of Manslaughter in the Second Degree when he recklessly
causes the death of another person. “A person acts recklessly with
respect to a result or to a circumstances described by a statute defining
an offense when he is aware of an consciously disregards a substantial
and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance
exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof
constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable
person would observe in the situation. A person who creates such a risk
but is unaware thereof solely by reason of voluntarily intoxication also
acts recklessly with respect thereto.” See Penal Law Section 15.05.
The driver of the boat might theoretically be charged with Assault in
the Third Degree (Penal Law Section 120.00, a Class A misdemeanor)
for negligently causing physical injuries to another person or persons
by means of a dangerous instrument.
If the operators of the ferry were determined to have acted recklessly,
then charges for Reckless Endangerment and Reckless Assault might also
apply for any injuries caused to victims that were hurt but not killed.
A person is guilty of Assault in the Third Degree (Penal Law 120.00,
a Class A misdemeanor) if he “recklessly causes physical injury
to another person,” and can be charged with the Class D felony of
Assault in the Second Degree (Penal Law 120.05) where he “recklessly
causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a …
dangerous instrument,” such as a ferry, arguably.
Obviously, if the operators of the vessel were intoxicated at the time
of the crash (though there is no such evidence available at this point),
then a whole host of other criminal charges could apply as well, particularly
under the Vehicular Homicide statutes in Chapter 125.
If you or a loved one were injured in the recent ferry crash, you should
contacting an experienced attorney to determine whether you may have a
viable injury lawsuit against the ferry operators.
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